Off-licence expansion in Wisbech town centre could go if Fenland Council agree licensing committee recommendation

Policy restricting off licence expansion in Wisbech town centre could go if council accepts licensin

Policy restricting off licence expansion in Wisbech town centre could go if council accepts licensing committee recommendation. Picture: ARCHANT - Credit: Archant

Fenland Council is being recommended to scrap a policy to control the growth of off-licences in the centre of Wisbech.

The licensing committee agreed on Tuesday to recommend the council abandon its cumulative impact assessment (CIA) policy.

Licensing manager Michelle Bishop said that of 30 responses to a survey, 27 felt it should remain although Cambridgeshire police offered a "mixed view" with regards to the policy and accurate data capture.

She explained that retention of the policy would maintain "a rebuttable presumption" that applications for new premises licenses, club premises certificates or variations "will normally be refused if relevant representations are received".

The committee, however, felt retaining the policy could put off businesses that might boost the night time economy.

Biggest critic was Wisbech Town Council who said it was "disappointing when a policy is put in place to address an issue but fails to do so".

The town council claimed reducing the number of premises which are allowed to sell alcohol does not reduce the supply.

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"All that does is 'protect' existing licensed premises, even if they are not run well, from potential competition," town clerk Terry Jordan said in the council's submission.

The town council's argument was that the "real issue" is the need to ensure compliance with the law by existing licensed premises to ensure alcohol is not served after permitted hours and not to people who are already drunk when they buy it.

"The policy has no impact upon the existing licensed premises in the town; it simply prevents new ones," said Mr Jordan.

Dr Liz Robin, the county's director of public health, argued that there was a problem across Wisbech with the proliferation of off licenses.

She wanted to encourage the committee to focus on off licences only which she felt could "help to address street drinking without impacting on the on sales businesses in local pubs and restaurants".

Police licensing officer PC Grahame Robinson suggested the current map showing the cumulative impact area was "too indiscriminate" and so evidence gathering of its impact was difficult.

He felt the boundary should be reviewed and replaced by a smaller better defined area to deal with off licenses and, as in the case of the public protection order within parts of Medworth, to target "specific areas notorious for street drinking and alcohol harm".

Councillors will meet next month to debate the recommendation from the licensing committee.